12 of the Most Controversial Catwalk Moments Ever
MARC JACOBS, SPRING/SUMMER 2017
A busy NYFW ended with a bang thanks to Marc Jacobs's decision to outfit the models walking in his show with multi-colored dreadlocks. As soon as images from the show hit social media, the outcry was swift, with many calling the use of dreadlocks — primarily on white women — cultural appropriation. Jacobs spoke out on Instagram to defend the dreads, saying “I don’t see color or race – I see people” and “funny how you don’t criticize women of color for straightening their hair. I respect and am inspired by people and how they look.” Hairstylist Guido Palau was also quoted as saying rasta culture — regarded as the cultural origin of dreadlocks — was "not at all" the inspiration for the look. These comments didn't do much to calm critics.
YEEZY SEASON FOUR, SPRING/SUMMER 2017
Rarely does Kanye West do something without a dash of controversy: Create albums, give a speech or make a phone call, for example. And his Yeezy Season Four fashion show was not the exception to that rule. Not only was it critically panned, it was held in a hard-to-get-to location on a very hot day, which resulted in multiple models fainting, and a lot of unhappy fashion editors.
GIVENCHY, SPRING/SUMMER 2016
The Givenchy Spring/Summer 2016 show built buzz well before the models headed down the runway, but not necessarily for a good reason: The show was held in the shadow of the Freedom Tower — once the site of New York's Twin Towers — on September 11. Though the choice to show the collection on 9/11 was questioned at first, it ended up being praised as a powerful and moving experience.
RICK OWENS MEN, AUTUMN/WINTER 2015
Fashion is usually about covering your body — not at Rick Owens's Autumn/Winter 2015 mens show. Those in the audience got quite the (peep) show as the models walked down the runway: Their penises were peeking out from the clothes, and in some cases, on nearly full display. (He somehow topped himself the next year with human backpacks.)
FENDI MEN, AUTUMN/WINTER 2014
Fashion and fur often go hand in hand (just ask Vogue editor Anna Wintour, who famously said "There is always a way to wear fur"), but not without some backlash. And there was quite a bit of it after Fendi's mens Autumn'Winter — including on the runway itself, which was lined with goat fur. That, coupled with the heavy fur usage on the clothes throughout the show, didn't win the brand any fans in the animal rights crowd.
DOLCE & GABBANA SPRING/SUMMER 2013
When the models in Dolce & Gabbana's Milan-set show strutted down the runway, many eyes skipped the clothes and went straight for their ears. They wore earrings featuring figurines of dark-skinned African women, called Blackamoors, which have an undeniable connotation of slavery. Add in that there wasn't a single black model cast in the show, and the designers had quite a few accusations of being politically incorrect on their hands. (That wouldn't be the last time they were accused of being un-PC.)
VICTORIA'S SECRET, 2012
Use of Native American tradition in a non-traditional sense has been a hot topic throughout the United States, from sports to, of course, fashion. That hot topic came to a head at the Victoria's Secret's 2012 fashion show, where Karlie Kloss, a white woman, walked the runway in a what appeared to be a knock-off of a traditional Native American headdress and tribal-inspired lingerie. The brand and the model later apologized for the gaffe, and didn't include the outfit in the TV broadcast of the show.
VIVIENNE WESTWOOD MENS, SPRING/SUMMER 2009
Rather than casting traditional models in her Spring/Summer 2009 show, Westwood chose to use members of the Roma community to showcase her gypsy-inspired designs in Milan. At the time, tensions between gypsies and Italians were running high. She was criticized by a member of the city's council, Tiziano Maiolo, saying: "I think the designer has a romantic notion about gypsies that is 100 years out of date. If she wants, I will take her on a tour of the nomad camps. These people do not want to work, they live by thieving and they have no respect for the law."
CHRISTIAN DIOR'S HAUTE COUTURE, SPRING/SUMMER 2000
Well before he was arrested for going on an anti-Semitic rant in Paris, Dior designer John Galliano was causing controversy on the runway with his "haute homeless" show. Models wore newspapers, torn clothes, and old bottles, caps and safety pins. "The fact that this is a matter of life and death seems lost on Galliano," Mary Brosnahan, then executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless, said of the show. Galliano eventually apologized, and said that his intention was to celebrate the style of Paris's homeless population.
ALEXANDER MCQUEEN, FALL/WINTER 1995
But that wasn't the first time McQueen's shows were designed to shock. His Autumn/Winter 1995 show, themed "Highland Rape," had models walking down the runway in torn tartan, with makeup giving the apperance of bruises. Many said it glamorized violence and objectified women. McQueen, however, said that was far from his intenion: "That really pissed me off, being called a misogynist," he said.
ALEXANDER MCQUEEN, SPRING/SUMMER 1998
During his short life, McQueen was widely regarded as one of the premier envelope-pushers in fashion, and with that title came quite a few scandalous moments on the runway. His Spring/Summer 1998 show was first named "Golden Shower," but sponsors couldn't get behind the name's sexually suggestive nature. Instead, he called it "Untitled" but kept the "shower," raining on the models in the final walk, with a yellow light painting the water gold.
JEAN PAUL GAULTIER, AUTUMN/WINTER 1993
For a designer, inspiration can be found in the unlikeliest of places. And for his Autumn/Winter 1993 show, Gaultier discovered it in a group of hasidic Jews. His show, dubbed "Chic Rabbis," came under fire for featuring women in garments traditionally reserved for men, and for being all-around culturally insensitive.